- Military Genius
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CRACK CLOUD are a collective cursed with the very modern problem faced by bands with angular guitar sounds, that of being labelled reductively as ‘post-punk’. The Canadian group are far more than that. Comprised of members recovering from addiction and those who work in support of mental health patients and other addicts, Crack Cloud are more than just a band; they are a vital support network for those involved. A direct reaction to Vancouver’s opioid crisis as much as they are a vibrant sonic flurry.
The group’s debut Liverpool outing in 2019 was one that blew me away. Very few shows have come close to it ever since. It was a night which divided the city’s fans of sardonic, sprawling intensity with Tropical Fuck Storm playing just down the road. But that night has stuck with me and one global pandemic, economic crisis and album release later, they’re back.
Tonight, there is no Tropical Fuck Storm show down the road and it shows. The room is bristling with a vibrant enthusiasm and the audience is a really mixed crowd: from goths and punks, to chin-strokers, to those who look to be enjoying their first show. In classic form from the headliners, their support comes from within the band with the solo project of Bryce Cloghesy, MILITARY GENIUS. His last album Deep Web is reminiscent of Alan Vega in its ability to mix ambient electronica with a brooding intensity and motorik looping. As such, I was expecting a reduced set-up, maybe a sampler or synth and Cloghesy with a guitar, however what manifests onstage is something completely different. As a full band, the sound transforms into something more gothic. As if chameleoning with their warehouse surroundings, what follows is a dark, intense, monochrome performance splattered with red provided by saxophone.
A flurry of drums and feedback calls everyone in from the garden, attracting smokers and conversationalists as nicotine plumes are replaced by clouds of haze and loud chatter is drowned out by Crack Cloud’s wall of noise. I walk to the front. From stage right the saxophonist is obscured by the gear, the rest of the band are in full display. Drummer and lead vocalist Zach Choy sits amid the rest of the band who crowd around him. His vocals and drumming style reflect this: claustrophobic, intense and incredibly tight.
Despite the community and collectivism that surrounds them, there is something about Crack Cloud that makes me want to experience them alone. Amid the repeating rhythms, the claps and acerbic yowls that burrow through my skull, they provide something rather transcendental that very few musical artists are able to do.
Musically, Crack Cloud seem to perform the impossible in their ability to hold everything together perfectly while it still seems everything could fall apart. I could analyse on a song-by-song basis but to do so would destroy the essence of what they are: as already expressed, Crack Cloud are not just a band. Live, they are an experience; in practice, they are a therapeutic community. The music, both sonically and lyrically, tells stories of hard lives and gritty recovery and in a live setting this manifests itself on a whole new level.